Friday, August 06, 2004

Brenda Bartella Peterson: the Democrat's Missed Opportunity

In a bold challenge to the Religious Right, the Democratic Party appointed progressive Rev. Brenda Bartella Peterson as Senior Advisor for Religious Outreach two weeks ago. This week, according to Chuck Currie, the Democrats abandoned Peterson by accepting her resignation after she came under fire for opposing the phrase "Under God" on constitutional grounds.

Peterson's appointment seemed to signal that the Kerry campaign was embracing a social gospel-type religious vision. She was a featured speaker at the Democratic Convention's "People of Faith Luncheon" on July 28. At the luncheon, Peterson criticized the Republicans for acting as if abortion and sexual issues are the only real "moral" issues. She interpreted the "basic tenet" of the faith, to "love your neighbor," as a direction that requires us to help the poor. (What a novel concept!) "We think the federal budget is a moral document," she told PBS last week.

Both Peterson and other speakers at the event called for religious people to engage politics along a broader spectrum of issues. Jim Wallis's speech was particularly powerful (full text):
"[P]overty is a religious issue. Neglect of the environment is a religious issue. Fighting pre-emptive and unilateral wars based on false claims is a religious issue." Wallis cited the book of Isaiah (65:20-25), arguing that Isaiah's progressive "call to renewal" includes "fair and good wages, housing and health, safety and security."

It seemed as if the Democratic Party was finally taking the Republicans head-on on the religious front. More exciting was the fact that their challenge seemed to be taking a social gospel tone. The Democrat's failure to defend Peterson when she came under attack and their acceptance of her resignation shows that they aren't ready for the progressive, prophetic religious vision that it will take to close the "God gap." What a shame.


At 7:21 AM, Blogger jrl20 said...

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